scene 1 act 1
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The play opens during a bitterly cold night watch outside of the royal Danish palace. There is a changing of the guards: Bernardo replaces Francisco. Soon two more characters arrive, Horatio and Marcellus. We learn that Bernardo and Marcellus, two soldiers, have witnessed an extraordinary sight on both of the previous nights’ watches: the ghost of the former King of Denmark, Old Hamlet, has appeared before them in full armor. On this third night, they’ve welcomed Horatio, a scholar and a skeptic who has just arrived in Denmark, to verify their ghost sighting. Horatio initially expresses doubt that the ghost will appear. Suddenly, it does. The two soldiers charge Horatio to speak to the ghost but he does not. The ghost disappears just as suddenly as it arrived.